Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Art, Accomplishments, and Aloneness

My mind works in weird ways as the title of this post suggests. One thing (seemingly unrelated) can connect to something else, and send me off the deep end of thought. So, keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post. I apologize in advance…

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago I went to Solvang for Katie’s birthday bash. (I’d link to her blog if she had one—hint, hint, Katie!)

Tons of fun was had by all! Lots of laughing, shopping (I still have buyers remorse, FYI. I haven’t even taken the quilt out of the bag yet…), and delicious Danish dishes (say that 10 times).

One of my favorite spots we visited was a little art gallery. It’s owned and run by Chris Pavlov, and I was really impressed by his work (especially the trees done with a Sharpie). So, last week I googled him and found out more about his life and how he came to be in a place like Solvang.

Needless to say, he has quite a tale to tell. Born in Macedonia. Moved to Austria to live and work on his art. Met an American. Married her. And moved to California, eventually opening up his gallery by the age of 26.


As I learned more about him (in a non-stalker-ish manner), I began to reflect on my own life, and what I’ve done with it. And I’ve realized that I’ve not done much.

And this made me think of my singleness, and a reason that it’s a bummer: If I don’t do something, I having nothing to tell anyone about!

No husband’s work/school to mention. No kid’s achievement to bandy about. If I don’t do it (something, anything), then I’ve got nothing new to say.

It’s a lot of pressure, really.

And the more I’m trying to make something of myself, the harder it is. And the more I fear I’m not up to the task, and dread the next 30+ years of trying to come up with stuff to fill my life with meaning.

So, to distract myself from my own thoughts, I have a question for you:

If you’re married (with or without kids,) do you still feel that you need to have your own accomplishments, or do you use your spouse/children as some kind of success/achievement (which I feel you could not only because of the time dedicated to them, but also because you have a direct impact on what they do and how they do it)?

If you’re single, do you feel the pressure to be completing things, attaining goals, etc. so that you have things to tell people, and so you feel like you’re making use of your life?


Andrea said...

Being single, I totally feel the pressure to complete things or try to accomplish something amazing (which I have yet to do). I'm embarrassed when I run into friends that are married with children because I feel I've got nothing to show for myself. This is why I've already decided I'll be skipping my 10 year high school reunion next year!

Susan M said...

(Came to your blog via your comment on Nine Moons.)

I'm married with kids, and when they were little, I felt like I had all these things I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn't because of the kids. Now that my kids are teenagers I have time to do stuff and I just don't have the drive to do it.

I don't look at my kids as an accomplishment. I get complimented sometimes on what great kids we have and my reaction is always, "I know, how did that happen? It's like they're space aliens."

Gina said...

Can I answer for both sides?

Being married, I totally want to accomplish things for myself. For example, a few weeks ago my principal told me that a district person I had been working with wants to offer me a district level job. This might be the high point of living in Utah. This seems selfish, but it was no nice to be recognized for something good that I had done. It's wonderful when Chris accomplishes something too, but I like the accomplishments for myself as well.

Being single, you know, Liz, it was always a huge fear of mine that I would be doing the same thing five years in the future. Ridiculous. Perhaps this was my driving motivation (fear) to accomplish something in my life (i.e. masters and such). I think that married people place pressure on single people and maybe the singles make it more than it is (sometimes I did). Can't we just all get along? ha, ha

Laura said...

Yes, I feel pressure to accomplish something. Especially when the standard list of accomplishments is school, marriage, family, etc. and I've done none of those. I really wonder sometimes if my parents are proud of me. Yeah, I'll work on that in therapy!

Seriously though, one thing my last therapist told me that has stuck with me is when I'd be crying about being single. He'd ask me "well, what do you do that would be interesting to a guy?" In other words, trying to attract a guy with my vast knowledge of reality shows is probably not going to cut it. I have to make my life interesting in order to attract the people that I want to be attracted to. Does that make sense? And of course, that all works even if you take the man out of the equation.

It's stressful though. The things I want to do, I'm too afraid to try, or I don't want to do by myself and I wind up doing nothing. It's hard to change that.

Amanda said...

Well, I have always gravitated towards goal setting projects. I don't accomplish much, but even in dreaming about doing more, I am happier. When I first started coming back to church I loved Personal Progress and as an adult I love the Pursuit of Excellence program for adults that absolutely no one knows about. I just love to have lists and be able to check things off. It hasn't changed at all for me in being married. Maybe that is because I find myself and my interests much more interesting than John's. :) He he! I didn't always have lots of hobbies or interests or things I wanted to do before I died, but once I prayed about that and now I have a list of about 432,915 things I want to do. So...there is my take.

Amanda said...

P.S. I hope that made sense!

Mr. Hall said...

I just shave my head and have a person take a picture that makes me look like Ron Howard's brother in order to have something to talk about. . . :)
As for accomplishments (being single) I used to feel like I needed to accomplish things in order to have something to "report" to people. Now I am not so much concerned with that. I still like to accomplish things, but it is done for myself (I'll take joy in things that others don't even know about). Simple things, really. I figure that life is too short to not take advantage of it (of course, the irony is that I waste so much of my life and I often feel trapped in the mundane, but the reality is that that is my own fault).

Amanda said...

Hey there Brett!! How's it going?

Rachel said...

Yes, but husband's and childrens' accomplishments aren't YOUR accomplishments. It's something to talk about but it's not your something. You would still have to work on things even if you did have a husband and children to talk about. And knowing you, you wouldn't be satisfied relying on someone elses triumphs, even if you love them and are happy for them, because you're someone who likes to learn and achieve. (I don't mean that in a selfish way. I mean that in a good way.)

I'm going to hop up on my single soapbox for a sec and ask how did getting married become such an accomplishment? I know that it takes work but it's all personal work. Work that makes you a better person, not the person you're looking for. Imagine if someone asked me what I've been up to and I responded, "Well, I've just been working on myself so that I can get me a man." That's ridiculous, right? I work on myself to be better, not to please anyone. And if a man comes along and he's rich and will buy me a golf cart - Super!

Heather said...

Being single, I do feel pressure to be completing things, but not just so I have something to tell people about. I feel pressure because time passes so quickly. I dont want to be in the same place in 5 or 10 years.
I'd love to be married, but in 5 years when I'm still not, I dont want to look back and see that I wasted time waiting for someone to appear. I want to know that I did as much as I could and enjoyed myself.
And I'd like to think that I'd be doing the same thing, even if I were married.

Heather said...

PS- I LOVED that little art gallery. :-)

Liz W. said...

Yay! So many thoughtful comments. I love creating a dialog.

And I'm glad to know that married or not, we all want to be accomplishing things for ourselves.

I guess what made me ask the question about the married folks is because I've found when I talk with married friends (especially those with children) it seems a lot of what I'm updated about is what their spouse or children have been doing, and not what they've been doing.

And, I asked the question of the single folks becuase from my own personal experience, people (ward members, family, etc) ask us questions about what's going on, expecting that, as a single person, we've been doing stuff. So, I always feel pressure to have something different to say instead of "still working." That's awfully boring, after all.

Sara Dawn said...

OK, so I'm a little late to respond. Better late. . . So my sister and I have had this conversation many times. So we ask the question, "how are you doing?" and the answer is ____(fine, or good). It's a bandaid question. Do you really want to know how they are? We ask people, "what are you up to?" And usually the response it generally the same. Nothing, or I'm working at ___, or being a mom, or etc. Really, I think it is a question of identity. What defines you?
When I was single, I had school to keep me occupied and busy and it was a no brainer--I'm doing the school thing. I did come to a point though, where I felt like I was going to move on from teaching--because I didn't want to be teaching forever. If my plan A didn't work out, or my plan B, then on to plan C--move on and contribute to society in a diffeent way.
Now that I do have kids, I realize how demanding they are. i feel like you can really loose yourself because you "just don't have time." yet I can always find time to watch American Idol. I am like Amanda and am a visual person. I like to see things checked off my list. Like the other day when I cleaned my car out. I do still have aspirations to finish my books or write a children's book, but it seems everybody is doing that these days. I guess I want my life to be special--you know like there is this one thing that noone else can do but Sara. I think that's why I started my other blog. I just need a place to be me. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Anonymous said...

Good grief Liz, I think the same wavelengths of despair hit us at the same times. That's EXACTLY how I've been feeling lately.

I think my is made worse by the fact that on my mission I always had tons to talk about. I could go on for hours. I've been home nearly 5 years and still haven't gotten over the fact that when people ask me how I'm doing, I can say "Work's good." So I feel ya. It's nice to find meaning in the small details, I think getting through the day unscathed is a huge completion. I just try to focus on that, on doing the best I have to offer every day and making little things matter.

Wendy said...

Married people talk about their husbands and kids because they have the same insecurities that single people do. When you're single and someone says "What have you been doing lately?" and you say "going to work everyday" you feel like you've let them down. Think how much worse it is to be asked that question and in your mind be thinking, "well, my big goal for the day was to sweep my bathroom floor, and I did it!" Instead you say something about your husbands job or a funny thing your kids said because you feel no one in their right mind would really want to know what you do in a day. For me the big difference is that when I was single I felt a lot of pressure - pressure that I put on myself - to contribute to society. To help people in a Big Way. Now that I'm married with small children I find my biggest challenge is to try and keep being myself. I have to work so hard to try and let people see my personality instead of just fade away into my role as a stay at home mom. Sometimes it seems like too much work and I do fade away, and I'm never happy that way. Sometimes when I am at our ward play group with the other moms I feel like standing up and shouting "Could you stop talking about labor and delivery experiences for the upteenth time? Come on! There is more to us than that!" I find that I liked myself myself a lot more when I was single than I do now that I'm a mom. I just don't make the time to think about improving myself the way I used to, and I think we all need that. This all just goes to show me that it is the small things, the daily personal development goals that make a real difference, no matter what big life goals you feel you have or haven't accomplished.